The Ravens' longtime search for more talent at wide receiver will continue this offseason, and it may be turned up a notch.
Baltimore has a chance to give its wide receiver unit a makeover with so much uncertainty, and knows it must get more out of the group to take the next step on offense.
"That's an area that we have to look at really hard," Head Coach John Harbaugh said last week. "We have to build that whole area up."
The Ravens went into the season hoping to have one of the best groups in the conference. Mike Wallace was coming off a 1,000-yard season, the Ravens added veteran Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman was spectacular in summer practices.
After injuries to quarterback Joe Flacco, Perriman and Maclin, it didn't pan out that way. That trio of wideouts combined for 102 catches for 1,265 yards and seven touchdowns.
"I see the same thing everybody sees," Harbaugh said. "I have no problem with the guys themselves. I think the guys themselves competed like crazy and did everything they could to be as good as they can be. The passing game wasn't where it needed to be. We all know that."
The Ravens will have their chance.
The team's leading wide receiver, Wallace, is set to become an unrestricted free agent. He said he's open to a return, but it's anybody's guess as to what will happen. Michael Campanaro is also slated to be an unrestricted free agent.
Maclin, who dealt with a variety of injuries throughout the year, is under contract but had a second-straight down year in terms of production. He's set to count $7.5 million against the Ravens' salary cap next year.
Perriman will have to "earn [his] stripes" after a disappointing third season that ended with him frequently being a healthy scratch during the final stretch. He'll be fighting for a roster spot.
That means Chris Moore, who showed growth in his second season, but still had just the ninth-most catches on the team (18), is perhaps the most known quantity this offseason.
One issue for the unit was drops, which were evident in tough-to-swallow losses to the Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals. Multiple drops in the first half of the Week 17 loss to the Bengals put the team in a big first-half hole.
"Yes, it was a problem," Harbaugh said. "It's fixable by having receivers out there that catch the ball. Either they catch the ball better or we get guys who catch the ball."
Harbaugh said catching the ball is the most important part of the job for a wide receiver, above route-running, speed and everything else. And it's not just the easy ones, he clarified. The Ravens need wideouts who make contested catches, of which there were few in 2017.
Harbaugh said the Ravens will pursue wide receivers both in free agency and in the draft.
"We have to build that [wide receiver group] up to where it's great," he said.
As of now, the projected 2018 free agents list is not overly impressive, but that will of course change after veterans are released.
The draft's top wide receivers are generally regarded to be Alabama's Calvin Ridley, SMU's Courtland Sutton and Oklahoma State's James Washington. A November mock draft from MMQB's Albert Breer projected Ridley to the Ravens at pick No. 16 – the same pick the Ravens ended up getting.
"We want to get playmakers. That is something that we need," Harbaugh said. "I do not think it is any secret that we need to add playmakers to the mix."